For Immediate Release
(Washington, DC, Dec. 5, 2013) — A suspension on the record of a Texas high school student who was disciplined for ripping his own Bible in class has been removed following the involvement of the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. The settlement also includes explicit permission for Isaiah Smith, the student at Birdville High School in North Richland Hills, TX, to continue carrying his ripped Bible in school.
Smith, an African-American gay student at the school, states he was bullied by other students who repeatedly told him that “being gay is a sin” and “gays go to hell.” In protest, Smith tore pages of Leviticus from a personal copy of the Bible and was sent to the assistant principal’s office as a result. Smith reported the bullying and was asked to not tear any more pages from his Bible. Several days later, however, administrators suspended Smith for merely carrying the ripped Bible to school.
“Smith’s free speech rights were violated, and we’re pleased to see his record cleared of any discipline he didn’t deserve,” said Appignani Humanist Center attorney Monica Miller. “We appreciate the willingness of school administrators to resolve this issue quickly.”
Negotiations began after a letter was sent on Oct. 31, 2013 from the Appignani Humanist Legal Center to the Birdville Independent School District outlining the free speech and religious freedom constitutional violations that had occurred. Final discussions with school administrators ended yesterday.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.